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thedrifter
12-02-05, 07:07 AM
THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ
Official Removed Amid Detainee Torture Scandal
The U.S. considered Nori Nori an ally who had tried to reform the Interior Ministry. Rights groups had called his work ineffective.

By Richard Boudreaux, Times Staff Writer


BAGHDAD — The Iraqi official responsible for investigating human rights abuse and corruption among Interior Ministry police said Thursday that he had been removed from his post in the aftermath of a scandal at a detention center where some of the 169 prisoners had been tortured.

Nori Nori, the ministry's inspector general, is the first senior Interior official to lose his job since U.S. forces entered the bunker-like facility Nov. 13 and discovered the abused detainees. The ministry, awaiting the results of a joint Iraqi-American inquiry, has reported no action against the jailers.

Interior Minister Bayan Jabr ordered Nori reassigned Monday, a ministry official said. Nori confirmed the order in a telephone interview but would not elaborate.

U.S. officials considered Nori an ally who had tried to reform a ministry heavily influenced by Shiite Muslim militias. His authority gave him access to the ministry's records and the power to call its officials to account, but human rights groups criticized his work as ineffective.

An aide said Nori had complained to colleagues that he was not allowed to enter the detention center to investigate the abuses, which have hurt the image of the Shiite coalition that leads the government as it campaigns ahead of the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

In an interview before the abuse scandal, Nori said he was facing resistance from the minister as he tried to carry out his oversight functions. He spoke openly about extrajudicial killings by police squads but was more restrained when another ministry official joined the conversation.

Results of the Iraqi-American inquiry, ordered by Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, were to be made public this week. But Jafari's spokesman said that had been delayed by a death in the family of the inquiry panel's Iraqi chairman.

Separate attacks by gunmen Thursday claimed the life of a candidate for the National Assembly and seriously wounded an advisor to Iraq's defense minister. Ahmed Daraji, a tribal leader who was running on the ticket of a secular coalition led by former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, was killed along with his son and a police captain as the three men left a campaign meeting in the southern city of Amarah.

Four U.S. soldiers were reported to have been killed Wednesday, three from hostile action and one in a traffic accident. The deaths raised the American toll to 85 in November, one of the deadlier months for U.S. forces in more than two years of clashes.

Several hundred masked insurgents swept through the main streets of Ramadi, set up roadblocks and fired mortar rounds at the U.S. military base and the governor's office. They dispersed a few hours later within the city, an insurgent stronghold in Al Anbar province.

Leaflets posted on walls said that Al Qaeda in Iraq, the group led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab Zarqawi, was taking over the city to "burn the Americans and drive them back to their homes." But the attack appeared to be more of a propaganda exercise.

Police said four mortar rounds fell near the U.S. base. There were no reported casualties, and residents said life in the city of 200,000 quickly returned to normal.

U.S. and Iraqi forces launched an operation in the province Wednesday, sending more than 2,000 soldiers and Marines into Hit and surrounding towns to track down rebels ahead of the election.

Soldiers with loudspeakers announced that vehicle and pedestrian traffic into and out of town would be halted for three days, residents said.

Several previous joint operations near the Syrian border have targeted desert routes used by Zarqawi's foreign-born insurgents, including suicide bombers, to infiltrate Iraq.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said Thursday that the operations had helped reduce the number of suicide attacks in Iraq to 23 in November, the lowest monthly total since March. But the number of Iraqis killed by suicide bombers rose to 290 during the month, more than double the toll for October, according to the Associated Press.

Lynch predicted more attacks would occur in the run-up to the voting. Zarqawi "is still out there and his mission is clear," Lynch told reporters. "He has 15 days to commit horrific acts to potentially disrupt the democratic process."

Special correspondent Asmaa Waguih and a special correspondent in Al Anbar province contributed to this report.

Ellie